9 Old-School Menus Reveal Dining Out in Portland, Maine, in the 1980s Was Cheap
Remember the good old days when gas cost less than a dollar and the mall still had Woolworth?
I'm talking about the '80s, folks. It was decade of decadence, incredible music and movies, and going out to eat for less than $100.
You might be saying, "Wait, Chris. There is no way going out to eat was that cheap." Well, actually it was, and I have evidence to prove it.
The Portland Public Library's archives are loaded with old menus from the '80s. It's a tremendous archive of restaurants that are long gone, like Hu Shang and Carburs, to establishments still going like The Great Lost Bear and Dimillo's.
With this wonderful list, I decided to put together a few of my own menus. I wanted to see how much it would cost to eat out in Portland in 1982. I can't say I remember much, since I was two, so this was a fun little project. If you think you spend a lot now, wait and see how much it's changed in 40 years.
Breakfast - The Good Egg
Such a great menu. It's like it was written yesterday, but with 1982 prices. Also, when's the last time you saw Sanka on the menu? Let's have breakfast.
3 Egg Omelet $3.50
Juice $ .70
Total Breakfast - $4.70
Not a bad little breakfast. You get eggs, toast, juice, and coffee for under $5. A great start to the day.
Lunch - The Great Lost Bear
Cookie Pie $2.25
Ice Tea $0.85
Total Lunch - $6.95
Could you imagine paying less than $4 for a restaurant cheeseburger? Now these puppies go for over $20 in some joints. Also, I didn't add a beer, because I couldn't find the prices. Sorry.
Dinner - Dimillo's
Lobster Dinner $10.95
Shrimp Cocktail $3.95
Dinner Total - $21.10
It's a dinner splurge. Lobster dinner, shrimp cocktail, even a little cheesecake to finish it off, and some wine to wash it all down.
First Menu Total - $32.75
Three square meals, and we still keep it under $35. Let's see if we can change that for our next example. I want to spend some dollars.
Breakfast - Charley & Mark on the Square
French Toast, Bacon, Coffee & Juice $2.50
Breakfast Total - $2.50
We have found the greatest deal from 1982. A stack French Toast with all the amenities for less than $3. Where is my time machine?
Lunch - Carbur's
WBLM Blimp $4.10
Strawberry Shortcake $1.50
Mai Tai (2) $5.50
Lunch Total - $11.10
I had to splurge for the WBLM Blimp sandwich for, well, obvious reasons. Also, a few Mai Tai's at lunch raises the price a bit. Worth it, though.
Dinner - Hu Shang
Steamed Dumplings $2.25
Crispy RIce Soup $3.95
Young Chow Chicken $6.50
Vegetable Fried Rice $3.25
Zombie (2) $6.50
Dinner Total - $22.45
A wonderful feast at the Goatiest of all GOAT restaurants. Even with all this food and drink, the price still stays low.
Second Menu Total - $36.05
Even with alcohol, the price still stay under $40 for the entire day. Obviously the $2.50 breakfast was a big help. Let's do one more and try to go all out.
Breakfast - DiPhilippo's Ye Olde Pancake Shoppe
Lumberjack Special $4.75
Breakfast Total - $5.10
It was a struggle, but I have gotten us over $5.00 for breakfast. Not a bad start to Splurge Day.
Lunch - Village Café
Large Western Sirloin $9.75
Bowl of Minestrone $1.20
Iced Tea $0.45
Lunch Total - $10.40
I couldn't even find a steak for over $10. However, at least the minestrone helps us spend so cash. Also, I miss this place.
Dinner - Thirty-Four Exchange
Beef Wellington $13.95
House Salad $1.50
Dinner Total - $29.40
I tried my best. I found a higher end menu, got the most expensive thing and still kept it under $30. This is impossible.
Third Menu Total - $44.90
Well, I got close to $50, but it's clearly difficult to try and pull off. However, I did expect to spend a little more than I did. We are talking about three meals out in a day for under $50 dollars. That's quite a feat. I guess 1982 was a lifetime ago.
What a difference 40 years makes, right?